Rugged and portable products present deliciously complex development challenges that require tight integration of all our disciplines.
Bresslergroup has a long track record of developing reliable rugged products — or products meant to withstand harsh environments and abusive handling. Many times these products also qualify as “mission-critical,” meaning people’s lives depend on them. Shrinking components, better batteries, and consumer desire are driving rugged and other types of products to get smaller.
Our portfolio includes devices that can stand up to all kinds of hostile environments, including explosive, extreme cold, wet and salt-spray, and crawling with pathogens. They also need to stand up to both rugged-mechanical and rugged-electrical industry standards.
No matter the product, our end goal is the same: to ensure the safety of the people using it and to maintain all functionality that is critical to usability and performance. Here are some of our strengths — and the reasons why we excel at this product category:
Meeting Industry Standards. For rugged-mechanical products, these include shock resistance, vibration isolation, water resistance, waterproofing, sealing, drop testing, dust protection, rustproofing, temperature cycling, explosion proofing, and protection from extreme temperatures. We work regularly to meet the Nema and IP families of standards as well as the military spec standard for drop testing. The rugged-electrical devices we develop are intrinsically safe and battery-safe.
They have the electronics shielding to pass FCC testing and UL safety testing for electromagnetic interference as well as various electrical tests, including for EMI and radiated emissions.
Waterproofing and Sealing. Our ability to produce reliable seals in the context of real-world manufacturing constraints has evolved into a sub-specialty, and we get excited about these types of challenges. Over the past 45 years, we’ve had many opportunities to develop expertise for protecting batteries, motors, and other electromechanical components from humidity, water, salt-water and related corrosion, dust, etc., while addressing the challenges of internal audible alarms, moving buttons, condensing humidity, and product submersion.
With waterproofing and sealing, simplicity is the golden rule, but creative thinking is required when simple solutions won’t work. Inevitably most projects allow us to get creative. This is where experience really matters — particularly understanding the limitations and possibilities of other types of processes and applications. In the end, many methods besides the traditional casework and gasket will seal an enclosure.
Human Factors Expertise. The human factors experts on our user research team play a significant role in the development of rugged products required to function in uniquely demanding circumstances and environments. People using products in harsh environments often need to wear protective equipment that impacts their sense of touch (gloves or mittens) and vision (face shields or goggles). Environmental conditions such as high winds, g-forces, noise, heat, cold, vibration, etc. can impact the user’s ability to sense and react. Keeping ergonomics in mind, we give recommendations for the appropriate size, orientation, grip, and configuration of controls to make sure each device is highly usable within its particular constraints.
Prototyping and Testing. After we design and engineer a ruggedized product, we prototype it and test it – either in-house or working with a lab to do outside testing – to the appropriate standards. (Read more about our Engineering Analysis & Optimization expertise.) Success comes from designing to the standard and from verifying the product will meet it in high-volume production.
Our experience running into and overcoming standards and manufacturing landlines has given us the foresight to prototype and test strategically to avoid anything that might throw a complex product off-course.
Working across disciplines makes it possible to orchestrate the delicate balancing act of evolving all design aspects of a small product in concert. Every element is interrelated — for example, component selection drives the configuration of the guts, which in turn dictates the size of the casework. Constant collaboration is required to achieve the right size, user interface, form factor, battery life, and choice of components.
Our integrated teams loop through these issues, inventing increasingly elegant solutions in the face of interconnected challenges and constraints. Having industrial and interaction design, mechanical and electrical engineering working side by side lets us pivot quickly and achieve quick time to market. Here are some areas where our experience working with small (and getting smaller) portable products really comes through:
User Interface Design. Size becomes a limiting factor when trying to fit a display and controls onto a portable device. Touchscreens partly solve the size issue by presenting a single surface for display and controls.
Of course, not every product can or should embed a touchscreen. Figuring out which type of display technology and which blend of navigational tools (soft keys, thumb sliders, capacitive touch, etc.) will produce the most usable device is a blend of art and science.
Electrical and Electromechanical Expertise. We work on complex electronics and complex portable devices, including electrical devices that require testing for EMC compliance and for compatibility with other products. We design shielding into these products and test boards early on to make sure we’re in compliance.
We’re familiar with both unintentional and intentional emitters (cellular radio, Bluetooth, ZigBee), and we usher clients through these certifications. We’re knowledgeable about these standards for the US and EU and frequently work with outside labs to do this testing. We’ve also helped clients through Apple Home Kit testing and other standards. Read more at Connected Devices about our expertise and experience with technology for connecting and communicating.